City Kids

The other day, while walking with a friend who grew up here but now lives rurally, we noted how different a place can seem when you don’t spend your life there. For her kids its a difficult adjustment to suburban sidewalks, driveways with danger and the need to use the restroom inside the house (that last one is totally my favorite. Nothing like a mother’s mortification when it has to do with bathroom habits and the great outdoors. If he’s still dropping trou when he’s sixteen in semi-public places, that’s a different story. As a toddler, it is pretty much awesome).

For my kids? Well, they may have called this camping:

This may have been the very first time we let them roast things over an open fire:

They were fine with the Hebrew National, all beef, hot dogs with mustard and buns and all, but they did not love the marshmallows. Why was it crunchy? Why was it brown? Why did the pink ones suddenly taste awful? (They were right about that last one, but I thought the pink marshmallows were gross from the get go)

And then they played outside until it was time to shower up and lay down their sleepy heads. Nothing tastes as good as playing with dad feels.

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My favorite Tweet from this past week:
I survived the tornadoes yesterday, just hope I can survive hearing all the tornado stories today…

I don’t know if she wants me to put up her Twitter handle, so I’ll just let you figure out who wrote this. Yes, she is that awesome all the time, by the way.

In honor of the storms that swept through a place we used to live, I give you Piper’s interpretation of Spring:

From right to left: Piper cheesing, a tree, raindrops, grass, a flower, a tornado, more rain.

Enjoy!

What Pinterest Wrought

The other day, while nursing the baby, I flipped through page after page and picture after picture of delicious food and other people’s rock hard abs next to inspirational sayings and snarky comments. I was on Pinterest and I was zoned out. I hardly noticed Gideon sidle up to me. He was watching the pictures fly by too. And he set his heart on this one:

He has spring break this week and he was not happy about it. He loves routine and all things being just the same as they always are. I was trying to think of things to do this week that would be exciting and I figured this might be a good substitute for going to Cabo San Lucas. So I bought the stuff we would need:

Oreos (double stuff, cause we roll fancy)
Mini Oreos (didn’t know they existed before last week)
Chocolate Almond Bark or CandiQuick or whatever you call that fake chocolate that melts in the microwave and is super cheap compared to the chocolate I actually want to consume
Skewers (in spite of already owning a whole package of them — why don’t I ever look in my own cabinet before I leave for the store)

The kids made their own before supper tonight and then consumed them right before bed. I’m guessing sugar coma looks the same as going to bed.

Then I made the rest.

And it was messy.

And not as easy as Pinterest wants us all to believe.

That’s the thing about all of those pretty pictures. I have friends who are amazing at making things and making things that look so very very beautiful. I have children that are gracious and easily impressed. I’m thankful for all of them.

Now let’s eat.

Book Review: The Grace Effect

I started to write this book review on February 29. Today is April 3. My life is moving fast. Yours is too, which is why you are looking for books now that you will read this summer on vacation…right? Or sitting in your backyard while the kids play in the sprinkler. Or, like I did, while you nurse a baby round the clock for a day or two. That’s how long it took me to devour this book. Two days. And I’d just had a baby. That isn’t saying something about me or my reading skills. It is absolutely saying something about the book.

My friend, Neil, was going on and on about the book right around the time Greer was due. Honestly, I wasn’t really listening that closely to his book description, probably because he was focused on the big picture part of it. That part, which Neil should probably write about because he was STOKED about this information, has a bunch to do with a guy named Larry Taunton. The name wasn’t familiar to me at all, most likely because his Wiki description begins like this: is an American author, columnist, and cultural commentator based out of Birmingham, Alabama who serves as the Executive Director of Fixed Point Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to the public defense of the Christian faith.

And then there is this: Taunton has personally engaged some of the most outspoken opponents of Christianity, including Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and Peter Singer. His often controversial and outspoken beliefs led to his dismissal from The Altamont School, an independent college preparatory school in Birmingham, Alabama. In 2007, he organized “The God Delusion Debate,” on the merits of Dawkins’ arguments against Christianity as set forth in his bestselling book, The God Delusion. The discussion was heard by over a million people worldwide. In 2008, he chaired a follow-up debate at the University of Oxford. In addition to producing several Fixed Point films, Larry, along with his team, launched LookUp316.com in February 2011, a project that displayed the message of John 3:16 before a Super Bowl audience. He has been a guest on a variety of television and radio shows, and has been quoted by the New York Times and Vanity Fair, among other newspapers and magazines.

I don’t know about you, but I’m just not that interested in the debates about Christianity and atheism. Not in the giant lecture hall, people boo-ing or cheering ideas and asking questions trying to stump people. It just all winds up feeling like posturing or at least like a Fox News/MSNBC panel and I stopped watching those a long time ago. The shouting just got too annoying. I’m tired of listening to people from opposing sides yell. When no one is listening, what’s the point of speaking, ya know?

Which is why a book by this guy seemed like something I would politely take and ‘read,’ ahem, skim and then return to said friend.

But then he gave me the book.

And I started reading.

And I couldn’t put it down.

Because it isn’t just a book about how one side is wrong and another side isn’t. It’s not that at all. And the title, though appropriate, just doesn’t cut it for me either. I would’ve never picked this book off the shelf based on just the title. It sounds like something I already know, something that’s been done before or at least a little tired. Of course, I don’t have an alternate title or anything, so that’s very convenient of me to pick on the current one. But, it’s true. Also true is that the book is fantastic.

It begins with the author’s very personal conversations with an atheist (see, doesn’t sound all that exciting) but it quickly moves to his personal story of adoption. So many friends have and are adopting. We are committed to adopting too. Not right now, per se, but sometime. Eventually. When we are sure it is the right time and this was a story of a family with that same mentality – when the time was right. And then it was. And the child was right. And the foreign country…well, what can you say about a place that hasn’t been touched by the common grace of Christian influence? You could write a book about it.

And Mr. Taunton did just that. He wrote a book and I cried and laughed and was painfully moved toward gratitude. I find myself caring just a bit more about the impact Christianity has on the whole and much more ready to read a book by a man who debates with people. I think you might be too.

Officially

The girls and I went to see the midwives today so that I could get cleared for running and working out and lifting and that vacuuming I started doing a few weeks ago. She proclaimed a number of things.

About Greer:
She looks like the Gerber baby!
She looks nothing like her sister.
She is GOOD.
The midwife would take her with her if I wasn’t watching.

About Piper:
She is obedient.
She has wonderfully curly hair.
She is so GOOD.
She loves her little sister.

About me:
I have plenty of estrogen!
This line will go away around month four and I can wear a bikini then without noticing it (ha!).
Everything is back in its rightful place.
This is all just skin. It will shrink back slower than the last two times.
I am doing just fine.

Straight from the mouth of a professional. We are all GOOD.

Good.

So good.

Tasty Tuesday: BBQ Chicken Pizza & Flourless Chocolate Cake

A friend recently celebrated a birthday. When celebrating a birthday you have to have a delicious cake. I always think that a person should be allowed to eat what they want on their special day, so she chose the menu for the evening. BBQ Chicken Pizza is her favorite thing that I make, so I wasn’t surprised when she wanted to eat at on her birthday, but somehow I didn’t know she loved chocolate cake. I made a flourless one (because I’d never tried one before but it sounded decadent and that’s what everybody wants in a cake). Here’s what we ate:

BBQ Chicken Pizza

1 Rhodes Frozen Bread Dough, defrosted
2 Tablespoons butter, melted
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp dry mustard
1 Tablespoon Italian seasoning
dash of pepper

1/2 – 3/4 cup Prepared BBQ Sauce (I use Famous Daves Texas Pit or Sweet & Sassy)
1 cup Cooked chicken breast cut into bite sized pieces
1/2 cup Purple onion, sliced very thin
6-7 Mushrooms, sliced thin (I love baby portobellas, but button work too)
2 cups Mozzarella Cheese
1 cup Cheddar Cheese

Preheat oven to 400. Prepare baking sheet/pizza stone with non-stick spray or butter. Roll out dough. Mix Butter with seasonings and spread onto dough. Bake 5 minutes to set the dough a bit. Remove from oven and spread BBQ sauce on top. Add chicken, onion, mushrooms. Top with mozzarella and cheddar. Bake 15-30 minutes – until cheese is bubbly or starting to get crusty, as you desire. Enjoy!

Flourless Chocolate Cake (from Tyler Florence)

1 pound bittersweet chocolate, chopped into small pieces (I used Ghiradelli)
1 stick unsalted butter
9 large eggs, separated
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 cups heavy cream, cold

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare springform pan with butter or non-stick spray.

Put the chocolate and butter into the top of a double boiler until melted. Whisk egg yolks with granulated sugar until light yellow in color.

My lovely assistant performed the mixing. She did a fantastic job, as usual.

Whisk a little of the chocolate mixture into the egg yolk mixture to temper the eggs – this will keep the eggs from scrambling from the heat of the chocolate. Whisk in the rest of the chocolate mixture.

You need four of these blocks of chocolate. FOUR! I chose three bittersweet and one semisweet because I love the sweet. SWEET!
(oh look, there is bread dough rising in the background for the pizza. HI BREAD DOUGH!)

Melting! Okay. Full disclosure. I dorked this recipe up. There is no butter melting with these chocolates. I forgot to add it. SO LAME. The entire cake was in the oven when I turned around and saw the butter sitting on the counter. I freaked, pulled the cake out. Melted the butter in the microwave. Mixed it into the batter and then put it back into the pan and then back into the oven. Perhaps it would have been fluffier if I'd done it properly, but it still rose and was just fine.

Beat the egg whites in a mixing bowl until stiff peaks form and fold into the chocolate mixture. Pour into the prepared pan and bake until the cake is set, the top starts to crack, and a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out with moist crumbs clinging to it, about 25-30 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes, then unmold. While the cake is cooking, make the whipped cream.

Whip the cream until it becomes light and fluffy. Serve the room temperature cake with a side of cream. Enjoy.

No cracking in the top. I pulled it out before then because I was nervous about over baking. Don't fret, friends! Let it bake. Let it crack. Mine was slightly underdone in the middle (which made it kind of like fudge and not bad at all, but for sure not done).

This was the most delicious chocolate cake ever. It is rich and delicious and I could not love it more. You’ll cut tiny pieces because this will be so rich that you wont be able to eat more than a sliver at a time. Serve it with some raspberries or strawberries to freshen it up and you’ll probably get marriage proposals.

On Tones and Talking

I’m sure you already know that I am often overflowing with sass and opinion. I’ve always been this way. Since I was able to put words into our language and even when I was speaking my own, I would offer up my own ideas with too much power, too many words and a general idea that I was right about them all. I’m raising someone very similar to me now and while it is often amusing to watch it all unfold, the thing that sits directly in the middle of those folds is not pretty. I know all of that because I live it and because the Word tells me that my desperately wicked self cannot survive on its own and achieve beauty. 

The past six weeks have been survived. That is my post baby mantra – survive, survive, survive. This time I blinked and we made it. Six weeks of allowing a tiny human’s every whim to rule my minutes. And now begins the process of stamping out self – not her personality or her ideas or her uniqueness – but her self will that is bent to rule and ugliness and sin.

It starts small. Sleep when it is best for you. Wake when you need to eat. Tiny steps to remind her tiny soul that this world is not spinning around her. 

Somehow I’ve got to remember this same thing. I need more time spent in quiet, more time meditating, more time devouring the things that transform me – the Word and the Spirit working together to change me. I’ve got to let go of the house running perfectly and remember that its more important to say the words gently to these tiny ears than it is be ten minutes early. The earth isn’t spinning around me.